You might be fooled into thinking that the planned rally and march in Washington, D.C., this weekend—dubbed Rage Against the War Machine by its organizers—is some sort of far-left antiwar protest against American support for Ukraine in its defensive war with Russia, a hyper-principled attack on all war anywhere. Especially with a lineup of ostensibly leftist speakers, including Jimmy Dore, Tulsi Gabbard, Chris Hedges, and Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters.
But when you survey the whole lineup and realize that it’s an amalgamation of cultish LaRouchites, Russia Today hosts, antisemitic conspiracy theorists, and far-right figures ranging from ex-Congressman Ron Paul to “Patriot” singer-songwriter Jordan Page, you begin to suspect something amiss. Then you notice the one thing they all have in common: Fervid support for the cause of Russia and Vladimir Putin. This isn’t a peace march; it’s a propaganda operation.
The rally—which is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial, after which they will march to the White House—is a protest against American foreign policy: Leading its list of demands is “Not One More Penny for War in Ukraine.” Other demands—"Disband NATO,” “Slash the Pentagon Budget,” and “Abolish the CIA and Military-Industrial Deep State”—are both unilaterally anti-American and remarkably aligned with the Russian agenda. Others, like “Abolish War and Empire” and “Restore Civil Liberties,” are simply generic left-wing principles.
But when you run down the list of speakers, it’s hard not to notice that the supposed “left-wing” voices scheduled to appear onstage are all part of a faction of self-described progressives who, in the name of establishing their credentials as “independent thinkers,” have embraced a variety of far-right talking points ranging from the war in Ukraine to COVID-19 denialism. The rest of the roster is filled out with extremist demagogues associated either with the far-right Lyndon LaRouche cult or the antidemocratic “Patriot” movement that formed the nexus of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In a nutshell, it’s a roster designed to promote a “coalition of the left and right,” ostensibly against war—but not against the Russian invasion that is its cause in Ukraine. Each of the speakers, in fact, has a record of extremism that ultimately supports far-right causes:
- Jimmy Dore, the ex-comedian and former cohost for the progressive outlet The Young Turks, who displayed a propensity for embracing Pizzagate-related and Syrian civil war disinformation even while there, and began veering into far-right talking points shortly after forming his own program, The Jimmy Dore Show, in 2019. Notably, he has been one of the foremost apologists for the far-right Boogaloo movement—claiming that it’s actually progressive and anti-racist and ignoring the reality that its core is and always has been about organizing an armed and violent far-right assault on liberal democracy. Nowadays, his 1.14 million subscribers on YouTube are regaled with an endless stream of Putin apologia, pro-Boogaloo revisionism, and COVID denialism (in one recent interview, he claimed the mRNA vaccines are “poisoning children”). He’s also been explicit about his base anti-Americanism, declaring that “America is a failed state.”
- Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman whose populist run for the presidency in 2007-8 unleashed both the tea party and a host of other far-right elements within the Republican Party. Paul, like most of his rally cohorts, primarily limits his antiwar activism to opposing any kind of American military intervention. During his years in Congress, Paul acquired a remarkable record of promoting far-right legislation that mostly reflected the fringe views he expressed publicly and promoted through his associations, including those with the far-right “Patriot”/militia movement of the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, Paul also attracted the fervid support of the radical right during his presidential campaign, and he played a major role in unleashing them on the American political landscape. Stewart Rhodes, the now-convicted founder and leader of the insurrectionist Oath Keepers organization, got his start in politics working for Paul’s congressional office (he oversaw Paul’s interns) and working for Paul’s presidential campaign.
- Diane Sare, the candidate of the New York Lyndon LaRouche party for that state’s U.S. Senate seat, whose campaign literature hails LaRouche (who died in 2019) as her mentor and the “greatest statesman of the past 100 years.” In fact, as Tommy Craggs recently explored at The New Republic, LaRouche himself was a virulent antisemite, paranoid and racist as well as homophobic, and his cult operation during its height of operation, as LA Progressive notes, was known for collaborating with various local police agencies to spy on and disrupt left organizations. Their well-publicized “Operation Mop-Up” entailed violent physical attacks on left-wing groups, particularly the US Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, with their stated objective being to physically obliterate them. Political scientist Chip Berlet described them as “fascism wrapped in the American flag.”
- Another LaRouche-related speaker is YouTuber Jackson Hinkle, a self-described “patriotic socialist” who recently posted a video devoted to defending LaRouche, titled “He was right.” Hinkle was a featured speaker at a gathering in New York last October (Dore was also an invited guest) of the LaRoucheite Schiller Institute. The institute’s founder is LaRouche’s widow, Helga Zepp-Larouche. Rage Against the War Machine’s Twitter account recently promoted a panel in which she was the featured speaker.
Cynthia McKinney, a onetime Democratic congresswoman from Georgia who was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2008, afterward began delving increasingly into conspiracism and antisemitism; in 2009, she flirted with Holocaust deniers and helped to pioneer antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros financing a “globalist” takeover. In 2018, she posted tweets questioning the number of victims in the Holocaust. In 2021, McKinney tweeted out a suggestion that “Zionists” were secretly responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks, then deleted it. More recently, as Bill Torpy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution observes, McKinney has been wading in COVID-19 denialism and antivaxxer disinformation, along with election fraud and, of course, Israel and George Soros. Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, McKinney posted a link to a video defending Trump’s short-lived post-election attorney, Lin Wood. In December 2020, she posted a meme on Facebook depicting the “Enemies of the People”: Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, George Soros, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Musicians are appearing as well. Roger Waters, one of the co-founders of the legendary rock band Pink Floyd, will be appearing as a speaker at the Rage Against the War Machine rally. Waters has a long and ugly history of indulging in antisemitism in the name of his political opposition to Israel, including putting a Star of David on the famous floating pig that appears in his concerts, alongside dollar signs and a sickle and hammer (though Waters heatedly denied he was trying to associate Judaism with money and communism). His former bandmate, guitarist David Gilmour, recently caused a social-media stir after his wife, Polly Samson, described Waters on Twitter as “antisemitic to your rotten core. Also a Putin apologist and a lying, thieving, hypocritical, tax-avoiding, lip-synching,misogynistic, sick-with-envy, megalomaniac. Enough of your nonsense.” Gilmour quote-retweeted it, saying: “Every word demonstrably true.”
Another musical guest is Jordan Page, a far-right “Patriot” with extensive ties to the Oath Keepers. In addition to performing at various Oath Keepers and “constitutionalist” events, in July 2021, Page appeared at the conspiracist Montana Red Pill Festival, where he performed songs about the Constitution and patriotism, as well as one dedicated to far-right martyr Robert “Lavoy” Finicum.
Unsurprisingly, the event is also riddled with outright grifters like scheduled speaker Tara Reade, the woman who claimed that Joe Biden had sexually harassed her with spurious evidence that was quickly discredited. Reade, like all the speakers, has displayed a deep affinity for Putin: In 2018, she wrote several Medium posts describing her support for the Russian dictator, which she later deleted in 2020 when they surfaced following her accusations against Biden.
One of the chief promoters of the Rage Against the War Machine protest is Max Blumenthal, who, along with his wife, former Russia Today host Anya Parampil, is listed as a featured speaker as well. As Matthew Foresta explored at The Daily Beast, Blumenthal, since 2015, has reversed an earlier career when he was dedicated to exposing far-right conspiracism:
His publication, The Grayzone, has consistently denied that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people when, indeed, they did. Blumenthal has gone so far as to make fun of the very idea by putting a bag over his head to derisively mimic the desperate actions of Syrian civilians. One of his past assertions was that the White Helmets, famed for their rescue efforts on behalf of innocents, were nothing more than al Qaeda—a conspiracy theory that has been thoroughly exposed and refuted. According to a report published in The New York Review of Books, Blumenthal’s bizarre reversal from his earlier criticisms of the Assad regime happened after a 2015 trip to a Moscow event celebrating RT’s anniversary.
Also attending that event were Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s later National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein (also a speaker at the Rage Against the War Machine event). Blumenthal participated in a panel at that event titled “Infowar: Will there be a winner,” along with Charles Bausman, the editor of the conspiracist propaganda organ Russian Insider and a noted alt-right figure, who showed up in video among the Jan. 6 insurrectionists inside the U.S. Capitol, and subsequently fled to Moscow.
[Full disclosure: I worked with Blumenthal in the first decade of the 2000s, notably on our 2008 exposé in Salon.com of Sarah Palin’s extensive “Patriot”/militia connections. I hosted him at my home on multiple occasions, and I considered him a friend until April 2018. We no longer have any association.]
Blumenthal is one of the leading figures in a faction of the ostensible progressive left that, at every turn, embraces right-wing propaganda and conspiracism—a group that includes alt-left figures like Lee Camp, Sameera Khan, Aaron Maté, and Benjamin Norton. While running interference for human rights abuses by the regime in China, they have also focused heavily on the arguable impact of the presence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s Azov Battalion in the current war—while ignoring the neofascists in the Wagner Division and Russian Imperial movement who are providing much of the cannon fodder for Putin’s invasion.
Much of this was mapped out in detail by geographer/author Alexander Reid Ross in April 2018 in a series of articles originally published by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, describing how these “journalists” are behaving more like paid propagandists in a network of disinformation that deliberately amplifies their work. Hatewatch removed the reports after Blumenthal threatened legal action, which had the usual “Streisand effect” of making Reid Ross’ reports even more in demand.
As Reid Ross explained then, the narrative promoted on this network promotes a “red-brown alliance” of the antiwar left and the nationalist far right. It presents nominal antiwar leftism as a façade for regurgitating authoritarian propaganda from Russia, China, and other autocratic states—dressed up in a vision of a “multipolar world” in which disparate national interests can achieve global equilibrium. Thus, as he puts it, authoritarian propaganda “is ‘graywashed’ of its dubious sources and presented as cutting-edge journalism”:
The problem with multipolarism, aside from assuming polarity as a useful prescription, may be that it supports not the emergence of Russia as a world power but the rise of the Kremlin’s authoritarian conservative political ideology. In this, multipolarists tend to support other authoritarian regimes and movements from Iran to Syria to Italy. Although anti-imperialists may believe that these measures land them on the right side of history, taking stock of the fascist movement suggests that the strategy of opposing a liberal order through red-brown populist collaboration makes the left a willing accomplice.
Perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the fraudulence of the ostensibly “antiwar” objective of Sunday’s rally is one figure who was originally included on Rage Against the War Machine’s speakers’ roster: former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was twice convicted of soliciting underage girls (in 2001 and 2009) and was paroled in 2014, and has embarked on a career since then of parroting Putin’s propaganda, including contributing regularly to Russia Today.
After Ritter’s background was highlighted in a Washington Free Beacon article about Sunday’s rally, he was summarily disinvited. But then, his antiwar credentials were not exactly robust: Ritter recently posted a tweet featuring a photo of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, aiming a rifle in the scene in which he puts down a rabid dog. Ritter wrote:
I don’t claim to be anti-war; never did. There are rabid dogs out there, and we need Atticus Finch’s to shoot them. I do, however, object to the shooting of healthy dogs. Ukraine is a rabid dog. Russia is Atticus Finch. Thus ends my lesson.
Ritter was replaced by McKinney on the speakers’ roster.
As Jeff Mackler acidly observed at LA Progressive, not one of these speakers or organizers has any kind of record at all of success in organizing mass social-justice protests—primarily because their ethos (and supporting organizations) is founded on libertarianism and its illusory promises:
Today, with a slight of hand and ten demands, including one advocating that the US engage in “negotiations, a cease fire and diplomacy” to end the Ukraine War,” the rightwing Libertarians aim for an end run around organizations that have fought US wars, racism and and for social justice for decades. They seek to separate the antiwar movement from the very social forces—working people and the oppressed—that capitalism and its endless wars exploit. And they cede the “right” of US imperialism to “negotiate” the future of Ukraine. The Rage organizers engage in endless rants insisting that their ten demands should be acceptable to all antiwar activists, their Libertarian capitalist origins, rightwing promoters and reactionary speakers notwithstanding.
President Biden's State of the Union was a masterclass in politics. The Republican Party, like a headless hydra, is unable to find a meaningful policy to get behind. Markos and Kerry talk about the highlights of last week and the enjoyment of watching Senate and House conservatives snipe at one another.